— Job vacancies overall in Minnesota soared the past year while employment opportunities in the Mankato region stayed the course.
That’s the upshot of the latest statewide job vacancies report Thursday from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The employer survey showed job vacancies climbed 15.1 percent in the second quarter of 2012 (63,000 new job openings) compared with the same period a year ago.
Meantime in the south-central region that includes Mankato, the number of job vacancies slipped only slightly — from 2,580 in 2011 to 2,362 this spring.
Oriane Casale, DEED assistant director of labor market information, said the negligible decline is just that.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as a poor report (for the region) because you’re pretty close to where you were last year.”
She said the region’s job vacancy rate is 2.3 percent — “That’s actually pretty good” — compared with the state average of 2.5 percent.
A job vacancy rate is the ratio of the total number of jobs in a region to its number of job vacancies.
Casale said the DEED survey also asks employers about their hiring plans over the next six months, and on that score, employment opportunities in greater Minnesota look promising.
“Twin Cities employers were less optimistic than greater Minnesota employers, who appear to be in a hiring mode,” she said.
And that hiring mode in the Mankato region appears to be focusing most heavily on the manufacturing sector, which reported 581 job vacancies compared with 230 a year ago.
Agristrand of Mankato, a plant that began production of soy fiber-based particle boards in July, has hired 36 workers and is looking to hire 18-20 more, said company official Dan Biller.
Trouble is, the firm is having trouble filling those positions for skilled and unskilled labor that will allow it to ramp up to a four-shift, 24/7 manufacturer.
“We’re totally surprised,” Biller said of the dearth of applicants for electrician, millwright and quality control jobs.
According to statewide DEED figures for the second quarter of 2012, there were 2.6 unemployed people for each vacancy, compared with 3.6 unemployed people per vacancy last year.
DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips said state job vacancies have returned to levels not seen since before the recession. He said that’s a positive sign that the labor market is recovering.
In Minnesota as a whole, jobs in health care and social assistance accounted for the most vacancies (16.5 percent), followed by accommodation and food services (13.4 percent), retail trade (11.5 percent), educational services (10 percent) and manufacturing (8.2 percent).
Other survey findings:
*42 percent of the openings were for part-time jobs.
* 19 percent were for temporary or seasonal work.
* 44 percent required some level of post-secondary education or training beyond a high school degree.
* The median wage offer was $11.06 per hour.
* 55 percent offered health insurance.